HR head could be on the run after six-figure fraud

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A senior HR professional who was fired amid allegations of serious fraud may have fled the country under an assumed identity – that’s the claim from one MP who’s following the case.

“She may be travelling on a passport that is not 100 per cent kosher,” said Labour transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney. “It's going to be incredibly hard for Ministry of Transport to call her to account because she uses different names,” she added.

Joanne Harrison – the alleged fraudster at the centre of the scandal – was the general manager of organisational development at the Ministry of Transport but was fired earlier this month after being tied to a “six-figure fraud.”

Harrison, who was part of the ministry’s senior leadership team, is thought to have stolen between $750,000 and $1 million of taxpayers’ money through false contracting arrangements. Now, sources suggest she may have fled to Canada.

"This was a senior staff member in a position of high trust, and my staff feel incredibly let down and betrayed by her actions,” said Ministry of Transport chief executive Peter Mersi, who took over the top job just last week.

“Her whereabouts are a matter for the Serious Fraud Office,” he added.

As a senior manager, Harrison – who is believed to be British – was one of five people reporting directly to the chief executive and was authorised to spend money without sign-off.

Her time at the ministry was served largely under former chief executive Martin Matthews, who has since left.

"Questions need to be asked about what he knew, and how soon he knew about it,” said Moroney.
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